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Images of the eye: ophthalmic artists in London 1824-1997

Collection of ophthalmic paintings donated by individuals and departments, digitised and annotated by Wendy Franks.

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The archive is of interest to medical artists, historians of medicine and ophthalmologists.

Iris, William Dalrymple (1843)

The original images are kept in the Joint Library of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. The Western Ophthalmic Hospital, Royal Eye Hospital and World Sight Foundation Collections are stored with the Moorfields Association Archive. The collection continues to grow, as more paintings are donated by individuals and departments.The images were used primarily as teaching materials and to illustrate publications.

Oculists in the 19th century took to publishing colour images as techniques for colour reproduction developed. Some were accomplished artists themselves but many employed artists. Painting of the eye was considered a suitable occupation for ladies when few other occupations were available to them. The daughters of the mathematician Gorge Boole, Mary and Alice are amongst the many contributing artists.

Photography proved inadequate to the task of illustrating the entirety of the inner aspect of the globe of the eye and it was not until the advent of computer graphics that watercolour painting of the retina was abandoned. The retinal paintings of Terry Tarrant are amongst the most prized of the collection.

To view the original paintings, by prior appointment, please contact the library via email or phone.

All images in the database are available for use under the CCBY non-commercial licence. Please credit the source when using any images.